Home Virginia Politics “Conscience of the Caucus,” “Champion of Civil Rights”: Sen. Yvonne Miller (D-Norfolk)...

“Conscience of the Caucus,” “Champion of Civil Rights”: Sen. Yvonne Miller (D-Norfolk) Dies at 77


Sad news.

Sen. Yvonne Miller, a Norfolk Democrat and the first African-American woman in the House of Delegates and the Virginia Senate, died this afternoon, a day before her 78th birthday.


Miller, a retired professor at Norfolk State University, had been ill for some time with cancer.

Rep. Bobby Scott said that Sen. Miller “was a stalwart champion of civil rights,” that she “spent her life devoted to Virginia’s children and youth,” and that she “was a tireless advocate for reforming the way Virginia handles crime.” Sen. Donald McEachin called Sen. Miller “the conscience of the caucus,” adding that she “‘always took the side of those who were less fortunate, those who live in the margins,’ and was a champion for women’s causes and for racial equality.”

Definitely a “tough day,” as Sen. McEachin put it. Our deepest condolences to Sen. Miller’s family, friends, colleagues, and constituents.

  • On the Passing of Senator Yvonne B. Miller

    First African-American Woman Elected to the Senate Dies of Cancer

    (Richmond, VA) – Today Senator Yvonne Miller of Norfolk passed away after serving in the Virginia legislators since 1984.  Surrounded by family, Senator Miller passed away at her home in Norfolk.

    “This woman lived a long and full life.  She has lived through the best and the worst this country has to offer and made contributions that made it a lot better,” said Democratic Senate Leader Dick Saslaw (Fairfax).

    A native of Edenton, N.C., Yvonne Miller was the oldest of 13 children.  She worked as a first grade teacher in Norfolk until Virginia’s policy of “massive Resistance” was implemented.  She then went on to earn her Master’s degree at Columbia College and become a Professor at Norfolk State University until 1999 when she became Professor Emeritus.  Later she earned her Ph.D. at the University of Pittsburgh.

    Senate Democratic Caucus Chair Donald McEachin (Richmond) said, “Yvonne Miller dedicated her life to making the world a better place.  She did not hesitate to speak truth to power, and to remind us all of our principles and values. As the senior member of the Senate Democratic Caucus, Yvonne was our soul and our conscience. I miss her terribly already.”

    “The Commonwealth of Virginia has lost a great Virginian, a great legislator, and a great humanitarian.  Senator Miller’s was a powerful voice that spoke most eloquently to the mission of assisting the underrepresented and underserved.  Her irreplaceable voice will be truly missed by all who knew and loved Yvonne B. Miller.  She was and will forever remain a giant among women and a role model for us all,” said Sen. Mamie Locke (Hampton), Chair of the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus.

    Aside from being the first African-American woman elected to the Virginia Senate (1987), she was the female Senator with the longest term of service in the General Assembly, the first woman to chair a Senate committee and the first woman to serve in Virginia House of Delegates (1984-1987).

  • Richmond, VA – Tim Kaine released the following statement today on the death of Virginia Senator Yvonne B. Miller:

    “Anne and I are saddened to hear of the passing of Yvonne Miller. Yvonne was a trailblazer, a strong voice for education and equality, and a dear friend. She was raised in a Virginia that looks very different than the one she leaves behind, thanks in no small part to her career in education and public service. Her legacy will live on in the hundreds of lives she touched during a career that began in Virginia’s segregated schools and spanned more than four decades.

    “Yvonne will also be remembered as a woman who broke down barriers in Virginia politics, becoming the first African American woman to serve in the House of Delegates, the first African American woman elected to the Senate of Virginia and the first woman to chair a Senate committee. For more than two decades, Yvonne represented Hampton Roads with enthusiasm and pride. Our thoughts and prayers are with Yvonne’s family, her friends, her constituents, and her colleagues on this sad day.”

  • glennbear

    Andy Griffith also has passed away. A NC native he played the sheriff of Mayberry, Matlock, recorded several albums, he was a Democratic supporter and recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom.


  • House Democratic Caucus Statement on the Passing of State Senator Yvonne Miller

    Today, the Commonwealth has lost one of its jewels, Senator Yvonne Miller.  With her passing, we have lost one of the most dynamic, transformative members of the General Assembly.

    “Senator Miller was a trailblazer,” said Caucus Chairman Mark Sickles (D-Franconia). “Her career is rife with firsts-first African-American woman elected to the House of Delegates and the State Senate, the first African-American woman to chair a Senate committee-transportation, and the longest serving woman in the State Senate.  We can only hope to have careers as long and illustrious as Senator Miller. The Commonwealth has lost a wonderful person and representative.”

    “She was the fiercest voice for people who had no voice-minorities, women, the poor, and children,” said Delegate Jennifer McClellan (D-Richmond). “She was always there to fight for them. This is a huge loss for all of us. She was the soul the General Assembly.”

    “Virginia has lost one of her greatest advocates for the rights of the underserved,” said Delegate Rosalyn Dance (D-Petersburg). “Senator Miller was a Christian first and a politician second. She shared with me her practice of visiting a different church each Sunday within her district to get ‘closer to the people.’  She was a stateswoman of great valor and warmth. Everyone was “precious” in her sight. It was indeed an honor and a privilege to work with and learn from her.”

    “We offer our condolences to Senator Miller’s family,” said Democratic Leader David Toscano. “We cannot begin to understand the depth of their loss. For almost 30 years, Senator Miller served her community and the Commonwealth faithfully and well. In addition to her service to the people of Virginia, she was wonderful person. The gravity of her loss is felt by all of us.”

  • Yvonne Miller was always ‘Senator Miller’ to me. You could count on her always to speak truth to power.  

    She earned her place in Virginia history by breaking-down political barriers for women and African Americans. She also earned our abiding respect through her passionate and tenacious service on behalf of those Virginians who had no voice.

    I join all Virginians in mourning her passing and celebrating her remarkable life.

  • Progressive

    This is truly a great loss of a brave woman.